NBA playoff picture, standings, magic numbers: Warriors at No. 8, factoring big into race for top overall seed


The Golden State Warriors could factor heavily into the top of the Western Conference playoff picture. On Monday, Golden State beat the Utah Jazz, which pulled the No. 2 Phoenix Suns within one loss of Utah, with the tiebreaker in hand, for the No. 1 overall seed. And who do the Warriors play on Tuesday? The Phoenix Suns. 

If the Warriors beat the Suns, Utah will be back to a two-loss lead with three games to play. If the Suns beat the Warriors, this is going to get very interesting over the season’s final week. 

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Also set for Tuesday night, LeBron James is expected to make his return against the New York Knicks. The Los Angeles Lakers are pretty much in must-win territory if they want to keep their hopes alive to crawl out of the play-in tournament and into a top-six seed. 

The Lakers are currently No. 7. They trail the No. 6 Portland Trail Blazers by one in the loss column, but with the Blazers owning the tiebreaker, that gap is effectively two with four games remaining for L.A. and three for the Blazers. 

A quick reminder on the NBA’s new play-in format: The top six seeds in each conference are in, with the final two seeds up for grabs via the new play-in tournament. In each conference, No. 7 will play No. 8 with the winner getting the No. 7 seed. The loser will then play the winner of 9 vs. 10 for the No. 8 seed.

Below is what the playoff picture looks like entering play on Tuesday, May 11. Teams are listed in order of current seed along with the SportsLine projected finishing seed and different magic number scenarios. A “playoff spot” means a top-six seed. This post will continue to update for the remainder of the season as we keep track of these races down to the wire. 

NOTE: Our SportsLine model, developed by predictive data engineer Stephen Oh, simulates the entire season 10,000 times to produce the most unbiased and precise projections possible.

WESTERN CONFERENCE(Current playoff teams)1. Utah Jazz

The Jazz lost to Golden State on Monday and now lead the No. 2 Suns by just one in the loss column with three games left. Phoenix has the tiebreaker. Utah has clinched at least a top-two seed. 

Magic number to clinch No. 1 seed: 3Strength of remaining schedule: 21stProjected seed: No. 12. Phoenix Suns

Phoenix trails the No. 1 Jazz by one in the loss column with the tiebreaker secured and four games remaining, starting vs. Golden State on Tuesday night. Phoenix has clinched a top-four seed, and can clinch a top-two seed with two more wins, two Clippers losses, or one win and one Clippers loss.

Magic number to clinch top-two seed: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 14thProjected seed: No. 23. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers have a one-game lead over the No. 4 Nuggets with four games to play. Denver owns the tiebreaker, so that race is still very much in question. The Clippers have clinched a top-four seed. 

Magic number to clinch No. 3 seed: 4Strength of remaining schedule: 29thProjected seed: No. 34. Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets trail the No. 3 Clippers by one in the loss column with four games to play and the tiebreaker in hand. Denver can clinch a top-four seed with one more win or one Dallas loss. 

Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 1Strength of remaining schedule: 26thProjected seed: No. 4

The Mavericks lead the No. 6 Blazers by one loss (Portland owns the tiebreaker). Dallas has a two-game lead over the No. 7 Lakers with the tiebreaker in hand, making that lead effectively three games unless it comes down to a three-way tie between Dallas, Portland and the Lakers, in which case different tiebreak rules apply. 

But even that would work in Dallas’ favor as the Mavericks are the only division leader among the three teams in question. In the case of a three-way tie, Dallas would get No. 5, the Lakers would get No. 6 (better conference record than Portland) and the Blazers would get No. 7. Dallas can clinch a top-six seed with two more wins, or one win and one Lakers loss. 

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 25thProjected seed: No. 56. Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers are one loss back of No. 5 Dallas and one game up on the No. 7 Lakers with the tiebreaker over both secured. Portland has clinched a spot in the play-in tournament. 

As mentioned above, if the Mavericks, Blazers and Lakers end in a three-way tie, the Blazers would be relegated to the No. 7 seed despite winning the head-to-head series over the Lakers. In three-way ties, the first tiebreaker goes to a division winner (Dallas), and the next applicable tiebreaker is conference record (Lakers). 

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 1stProjected seed: No. 6(Current play-in teams)7. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers are one game back of the No. 6 Blazers, but Portland owns the tiebreaker, so that gap is effectively two games with four to play. The Lakers trail the No. 5 Mavericks by two games, but again, Dallas owns the tiebreaker, so that gap is effectively three. The Lakers have clinched at least a play-in berth, but do not control their own destiny for a top-six seed. 

As mentioned above, if the Mavericks, Blazers and Lakers end in a three-way tie, the Lakers would catch a break and move ahead of the Blazers for the No. 6 seed despite losing the season series to Portland. In three-way ties, the first tiebreaker goes to a division winner (Dallas), and the next applicable tiebreaker is conference record (Lakers). 

Strength of remaining schedule: 24thProjected seed: No. 78. Golden State Warriors

The Warriors got a huge win against Utah on Monday to remain tied in the loss column with the No. 9 Grizzlies with three games to play. (Memphis has four games left, which for the moment has Golden State ahead via win percentage). The season series between the Warriors and Grizzlies is tied 1-1 with the rubber match, which could very well determine who gets the No. 8 seed and thus only has to win one play-in game, set for the final day of the season. The Warriors have clinched at least the No. 10 seed. 

Magic number to clinch No. 8 seed: 3Magic number to clinch No. 9 seed: 1Strength of remaining schedule: 10thProjected seed: No. 8

Memphis is tied in the loss column with the No. 8 Warriors (who have a higher win percentage at the moment) with the season series tied 1-1 and one matchup left on the last day of the season. Memphis has a two-loss lead over No. 10 San Antonio, but with the tiebreaker already secured, that lead is effectively three. Memphis has clinched at least the No. 10 seed. 

Magic number to clinch No. 8 seed: 4Magic number to clinch No. 9 seed: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 19thProjected seed: No. 9

San Antonio leads No. 11 New Orleans and No. 12 Sacramento by three in the loss column (Spurs own tiebreaker over both) with four games to play. One more win for the Spurs, or one loss from each of those teams, seals the final play-in spot for San Antonio. 

Magic number to clinch play-in series: 1Strength of remaining schedule: 2ndProjected seed: No. 10(Clinging to play-in life)11. New Orleans Pelicans — Three losses back of No. 10 San Antonio (Spurs have the tiebreaker).12. Sacramento Kings — Three losses back of No. 10 San Antonio (Spurs have the tiebreaker).Kendrick Nunn and the Heat can clinch a top six-seed with a win over the Celtics Tuesday night.
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EASTERN CONFERENCE(Current playoff teams)

The Sixers have a three-loss lead over the No. 2 Nets (Philly owns tiebreaker) and a four-loss lead over the No. 3 Bucks (Milwaukee owns tiebreaker) with four games to play. The No. 1 seed is all but sealed for the Sixers.

Magic number to clinch No. 1 seed: 1Strength of remaining schedule: 28thProjected seed: No. 12. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets hold a one-game lead over the No. 3 Bucks in the loss column. The Buck do own the tiebreaker, meaning that the race for what will likely equate to home-court advantage in a second-round matchup is far from over. The Nets have clinched a top-three seed. 

Magic number to clinch No. 2 seed: 4Strength of remaining schedule: 27thProjected seed: No. 23. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks lost to the Spurs on Monday to fall one game back of the No. 2 Nets.  The Bucks own the tiebreaker over Brooklyn and have clinched a top-three seed, but do not control their own destiny for anything higher than that. 

Strength of remaining schedule: 22ndProjected seed: No. 3

The Knicks are officially ruled out for a top-three seed. New York leads the No. 5 Hawks by one in the loss column, but with the tiebreaker secured, that lead is effectively two. The bigger concern would appear to be the No. 6 Heat, who are also just one game back of the Knicks and own the tiebreaker, but SportsLine projections actually have Atlanta passing New York for home-court advantage in the first round. The Knicks, who face the Lakers in LeBron James’ expected return Tuesday night, have clinched a spot in at least the play-in tournament. 

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 2Magic number to clinch top-four seed: 4Strength of remaining schedule: 16thProjected seed: No. 55. Atlanta Hawks

The Hawks are one game back of the No. 4 Knicks, who own the tiebreaker. Despite that effective two-game gap, SportsLine projections have Atlanta jumping New York by season’s end. Still, nobody in Atlanta is resting easy. The Hawks are tied in the loss column with No. 6 Miami and lead the No. 7 Celtics by just two games, but the good news is Atlanta owns the tiebreaker over both. Atlanta has clinched a spot in at least the play-in tournament. 

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 30thProjected seed: No. 46. Miami Heat

The Heat can seal a top-six seed with a win over Boston on Tuesday. Miami leads the Celtics by two in the loss column with the season series tied 1-1. Miami is also tied in the loss column with No. 5 Atlanta, but the Hawks own the tiebreaker. Miami has clinched a spot in the play-in tournament.

Magic number to clinch playoff spot: 1Strength of remaining schedule: 13thProjected seed: No. 6(Current play-in teams)7. Boston Celtics

Boston has to beat Miami on Tuesday night to keep its top-six hopes alive. A loss would put the Celtics three back of Miami with three games to play and the Heat would have the tiebreaker. A win would pull Boston within one game with the tiebreaker in hand and three games — two of which are against Cleveland and Minnesota — remaining. The Celtics have clinched a spot in at least the play-in tournament. 

Strength of remaining schedule: 23rdProjected seed: No. 7

Charlotte has a one-game lead over No. 9 Indiana with the tiebreaker in hand, making that an effective two-game gap. The Hornets lead No. 10 Washington by two in the loss column and own the tiebreaker, making than an effective three-game gap. 

Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 1Strength of remaining schedule: 6thProjected seed: No. 8

The Pacers jumped the Wizards on Monday with a win over Cleveland combined with Washington’s loss to Atlanta. Indiana leads Washington by one in the loss column, but the Wizards own the tiebreaker. Indiana trails No. 8 Charlotte by one in the loss column, but again, the Hornets own the tiebreaker, making that an effective two-game gap. 

Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 8thProjected seed: No. 910. Washington Wizards

Washington lost to Atlanta on Monday to fall back below Indiana and into the No. 10 spot. The Wizards trail the Pacers by one in the loss column, but do own the tiebreaker. They have a two-loss lead over the No. 11 Bulls to remain safely in the play-in tournament, though Chicago does own the tiebreaker if it comes to that. 

Magic number to clinch play-in spot: 2Strength of remaining schedule: 20thProjected seed: No. 10(Clinging to play-in life)11. Chicago Bulls — Two losses back of No. 10 Washington with the tiebreaker secured. 



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